All About That Thyroid - Part 16 Minute Read
The thyroid is a gland found at the base of your neck that regulates your metabolism. Your metabolism is ALL of the reactions that happen in your body. So, your thyroid is controlling how many calories you burn for your cells to get their job done. It’s pretty important!
Before we talk more about how the thyroid functions, let’s look at some common symptoms of low thyroid function. Have you ever experienced any of the following symptoms?
- * Fatigue
- * Weight Gain
- * Hair loss
- * Dry skin
- * Constipation
- * Painful menstruation
- * Irritability
- * Depression
- * Insomnia
- * Cold Intolerance
- * Joint Pain
- * Brain Fog
Thyroid issues are the #1 endocrine disorder that affects 27 million Americans and only 50% of people are properly diagnosed. That means 50% of people are walking around with thyroid issues, feeling run down and they don’t even know why!
Of those patients that are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, 80% of them are women. Of those women, 80% are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Of those with hypothyroidism, 80% have low thyroid function due to an autoimmune disease.
On average, it takes 10 years for thyroid issues to develop, so you can experience these symptoms on and off for years before you are even diagnosed!
How does your thyroid work?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland, meaning it produces hormones or messengers that tell your cells what to do. The brain releases another hormone called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and tells your thyroid to make the hormone T4. T4 is then released into the bloodstream to travel to other tissues.
T4 is called the stored version of thyroid hormones, meaning it isn’t active until it gets converted to the thyroid hormone called T3. T3 is made by a process called deiodination of T4 (removal of one iodine) in peripheral tissues, especially in your liver. At least 28 different cofactors are needed to convert T4 to T3, including the mineral selenium.
T3 is the active form that goes into all of your cells and tells the cell what to do. T3 increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and regulates your body temperature, heart rate, and oxygen consumption. Keep in mind, your BMR is the number of calories that your body burns at rest!
To sum it all up, your brain sends out TSH to tell your thyroid to make T4 and then, mostly your liver will convert T4 to T3. T3 will then regulate your metabolism in all of your cells!
How does T3 work?
In order to message your cells to increase BMR, T3 must bind or connect to receptors within the cell. Picture the receptor as a place for T3 to attach to, like putting your key into your car’s ignition. Once T3 connects to its receptor, or turns on your ignition, your BMR will be affected. So, for proper function, you MUST have T3 connect to its receptor.
Heard of Reverse T3?
Reverse T3 (rT3) is another version of T3 that can be made that is inactive. Why would the body do this? In times of stress, the body will convert T3 to rT3 for protection by conserving energy. In times of extreme stress, your body’s focus is to eliminate this stress, like starvation or killing the flu virus. Reverse T3 can bind to the receptors and block the active T3. So, if you have a lot of rT3, the actions of T3 are reduced. Guess what happens to your BMR!!! It will decrease during times of stress.
Testing for Hypothyroidism
What happens when conventional medicine suspects a thyroid issue? Typically, they will test your TSH (remember thyroid-stimulating hormone?). TSH isn’t really testing your thyroid, but testing how loud your brain is screaming at your thyroid to get working! Although TSH is important, there are several other hormones AND biomarkers that need to be checked as well to figure out the cause of your thyroid issue.
Proper thyroid function is complicated - we need to know if your thyroid is making hormones, if they are converting properly to T3, if T3 is connecting to its receptors, and if you have the correct nutrients to even make these things happen. There are 85 different biomarkers that need to be tested to get an accurate picture of what is really going on with the thyroid!
Let’s say you do get all of these biomarkers tested, now we need to look at the results. With conventional medicine testing, your “normal” thyroid ranges are measured to just keep you alive. That’s it!!! “Normal” ranges only keep you alive. Functional medicine testing instead compares your thyroid level to the “optimal” range. Normal levels only keep you alive; whereas optimal levels get you feeling amazing!
What are the root causes for thyroid issues?
Proper thyroid function is a very complicated process, so you could be dealing with:
- * An autoimmune disease
- * A hormone receptor problem - Is T3 available and able to connect to the receptor?
- * A T4 to T3 conversion problem - Is T4 converting properly? Are all of the nutrients available that are needed for conversion? Is your liver functioning properly to allow for conversion?
- * Do you have too much rT3? Is there a major stressor on the body that is causing too much rT3 that is blocking T3 action?
You have to do the RIGHT tests to know what the cause of low thyroid function to FIX it!
Why can’t I just treat my thyroid with a drug?
Synthroid, a synthetic T4, is the most common drug used to treat hypothyroidism. The ONLY thing a synthetic T4 will do is provide your body with more T4. So, what if you have a problem converting T4 to T3? What if your body is under stress and you are converting all of this T4 to rT3? What if you have a hormone receptor problem? More T4 isn’t always the answer!!!!
It’s very common for patients on a synthetic T4 drug to still experience hypothyroidism symptoms because the root cause it NOT being addressed. A drug is being used, not effectively, to cover up another problem!
WE have to figure out the cause to be able to fix anything instead of just pumping in more and more T4 hoping to fix the problem.
If you want to know if you have a thyroid issue or if you want to figure out the root cause of low thyroid function, you need to have the correct tests performed! Once you know the root cause, only THEN can you figure out a treatment plan. Fill out the consultation form below to work with me!
In the next blog post, we will explore the real causes of thyroid issues!